Opinion:

By Juliette Barre, Director of Business Development & Marketing at Sourcemap

With the Covid-19 epidemic shaking the fashion industry and with 40 million garment workers around the world losing their job, large brands with complex supply chains are struggling to verify that products are made in a safe and ethical manner across their extended supply chain. At the same time, transparency matters more than ever: 73% of consumers say they would be willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency in all attributes. Brands like The Canvas brands are uniquely poised to capitalize on the demand for transparency, especially within their supply chains, so that consumers can feel good about the benefit their purchases bring to producers.

At Sourcemap we believe that transparency is the key to building the supply chain of the future.
Transparent supply chains ensure accountability and enable all actors of the supply chain to work in fair conditions. They also enable businesses to be more resilient in the face of crisis by quickly identifying the potential impact of a disruption and allowing executive management to make strategic decisions with all the information at hand.

There is a world of difference between basic disclosure - publishing a list of direct suppliers - and true supply chain transparency. True transparency is a due diligence process whereby brands can demonstrate that they map the end-to-end supplier network for performance and risk, implement improvement plans, and verify the outcomes.

In times like this, Sourcemap is here to help. Sourcemap was launched in 2008 at MIT, an ambitious research project to develop software for supply chain transparency. Since 2011 we’ve been busy developing the tools and services needed to take companies to the transparent future. Today Sourcemap software runs many of the most powerful platforms for transparency and traceability on the market. Sourcemap Enterprise was the first platform designed to manage multi-tier supply chains, including advanced database technology that traces individual products from raw materials to end customers, and award-winning visualizations to make sense of it all. Through these tools we help our clients by either providing a clear picture of brands’ supply chain exposure, connecting them with other stakeholders to fill in missing data, or planning entirely new sourcing and distribution scenarios.

We use traceability to ensure product chains of custody are unbroken - that there is no counterfeit material ending up in the supply chain, and that only authentic goods find their way to markets that are legitimate. We use the same logic to verify raw material certifications such as Responsible Down Standard certified down, Global Recycled Standard-certified recycled nylon and polyester, Leather Working Group-certified leather, Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa, etc. In the case of recycled plastic, the only way to make sure that your plastics suppliers are selling something truly recycled is to monitor their inputs and outputs and make sure they add up, a.k.a. traceability with smart contracts that trigger alerts whenever volumes don't match. The only way that this can happen is if the suppliers collaborate with brands to share information on every transaction.

Innovation is the key to staying ahead of counterfeiting and other supply chain risks. That is why it's important to work with partners who can continuously innovate. For example, we partner with Scantrust, a provider of un-hackable bar code technology, with Ulula, who monitor worker satisfaction, and with Bluenumber, who have a secure system for making sure that farmers and factory workers are paid fairly.

Small brands don’t always have the resources to implement due diligence process for their extended supply chain the way large fashion groups do, but there are many things they can do for their customers. But The Canvas brands can start by disclosing the list of suppliers they are using and how they work with them (we created Open Sourcemap just for this purpose). Supply chain transparency isn't only about compliance; it's a chance to build a relationship with customers and consumers. Thanks to The Canvas, brands can engage their customers and answer all their questions about the materials and suppliers they use, as well as the initiatives they have in place. You can share this information everywhere: CSR report, shareholder reports, product pages, product tags (using a QR code) to show that transparency can be the standard and not the exception.


Vans slip-on transparency map also available here

There's no question that transparency is the new normal, and brands that are not prepared need to start mapping their supply chains today. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 crisis, we know more than ever how important it is to be in contact with all of the stakeholders in the end-to-end supply chain. Transparency is the beginning and it's what enables future collaboration.